Last fall Wei Sun Christianson, Morgan Stanley's point executive in Beijing, was named to the firm's management committee. Two months later, Morgan sold a $5 billion stake in itself to China's state-owned China Investment Corp. All investment banking eyes right now may be on Wall Street-at press time, vultures were circling Lehman Brothers-but for Morgan the future may lay far eastward.
In the last year and a half, the firm has obtained licenses and regulatory approvals for three onshore entities in China and invested in several platforms there, a Morgan brief on Christianson points out. So under Christianson's leadership three product areas are now open to Morgan: commercial banking, through the wholly-owned Nan Tung Bank (now Morgan Stanley Bank International China); a mutual funds business, through taking 34 percent of Jutian Asset Management, now Morgan Stanley Huaxin Asset Management; and yuan-denominated portfolio investment funds in the 20-percent owned Morgan Stanley Hangzhou Trust. The portfolio investments run the menu from real estate and infrastructure, private and public equity, bonds, warrants, government securities and domestic shares.
The 51-year-old, Beijing-born Christianson's built out the Morgan team by 300 percent since 2006-and she played a critical role in sealing the China Investment Corp. deal. "Since then, she has been actively leading the coverage and financial advisory effort of this important and active Sovereign Wealth Fund in China," the Morgan brief says.
Her role on the deal certainly spoke to Christianson's line into Morgan CEO John Mack, but it also came about because of her background. She left China when the Deng Xiaoping years were in full swing and the People's Republic was taking halting steps to open itself to western intellectual and monetary capital. While in a tight-knit group of expats studying at Columbia Law in the late '80s, Christianson met Gao Xiquing - who is now the president and chief investment officer of China Investment Corp.
While the Chinese marketplace has volatilities of its own-both seen and unseen into the future-just now Christianson's doing well for Morgan on the local league tables. The firm headed the equity and equity-linked rankings in volume and number of transactions from June of '07 through May of '08; was the number one local junk bond issuer by volume and deals, and watched over six M&A deals, an aggregate value of $11.4 billion, for a market share of 15.2 percent. And things are just getting rolling. For Christianson, current ties to Mack, as to any Street chief, are no guarantee of future results (witness Zoe Cruz), but it just could be she's in the right place and the right time, with a world of talent.
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